At noon on Oct. 4, four Radnor police cars arrived outside Cabrini University’s parking garage. Officers entered the Holy Spirit Library, and approximately an hour later, longtime staff member Christopher Jones, a Cataloging, Serials, and Circulation specialist, and Cabrini alumnus, was escorted out in handcuffs.
According to many of the library’s current and former female employees, Jones’ behavior was a problem long before that day.
An eyewitness source who asked to remain anonymous said Jones seemed visibly upset and confrontational during a meeting in a back room of the library with Library Director Anne Schwelm and a representative from Human Resources. Jones raised his voice, repeatedly yelling, “So I’m a threat now? I’m a threat now?” Students were cleared from the building and the library was closed for several hours.
In an emailed statement to the campus community on Oct. 7, President Helen Drinan wrote, “…There was never any risk of safety to students, faculty or staff at any time during the incident. Our concern for safety on campus is paramount, and our Public Safety team was engaged at every step of this incident as is our practice,” and noted a policy of “maintaining confidentiality” for faculty and staff.
According to a court docket obtained by the Loquitur, Jones was charged by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania with “defiant trespassing” and “disorderly conduct engaged in fighting.” Bail was set at $10,000 and a preliminary hearing was scheduled for Oct. 19. That date has since been postponed several times and is now slated for January 25, 2024.
A familiar face
Jones, raised in Queens, New York, graduated from Cabrini University in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in communication. According to his LinkedIn account, he received a master’s degree in education from Cabrini in 2011 and began working at Holy Spirit Library in Aug. 2014.
One 2019 Cabrini graduate, Rahmere Griffin, wrote on the Cabrini Blog that Jones was a mentor and pivotal figure in shaping his academic journey. “I know I am not the only student who sees him as a mentor on campus. Many students I know make it a habit to stop by the library just to talk to Chris,” Griffin wrote. “He is someone who genuinely cares about the growth of students here at Cabrini. I believe he has made an impact on many students who have come in and out of the Holy Spirit Library, he definitely made an impact on mine.”
Issues behind closed doors
A’Niyah Stillis, a senior psychology major, started a work-study job at Holy Spirit Library in February 2022. She recounted, “It was a very easy, calm job and I didn’t have issues at all. And then closer toward last year, my junior year, I noticed something changed in the way things were being run. I noticed the change in my boss, Chris.”
Another student worker, Jayden Randolph, a sophomore criminology and sociology major who worked at the library since spring 2023, agreed. “I felt so uncomfortable working around him. He was very cold. I was fine working with everybody else in the library. I didn’t care who I worked with, except him.”
Stillis noted Jones, who oversaw all work-study students, started displaying aggressive behavior toward her in 2022. “It was just really, like, a confusing time where he started to become really assertive and really aggressive,” Stillis said. “He started enforcing rules that were never previously enforced.”
She approached a former librarian and archivist, Chelsea Frank, with her concerns, but says Frank told her she “didn’t want to get involved.” Stillis said that Frank told her to inform Schwelm and “maybe HR if Anne doesn’t do anything.”
Randolph had a similar experience. Jones “would be pretty hostile towards me on small things. If he was in a bad mood, he would let you know. He would take it out on you if there was a lot of work to be done and he would make you do it when he wanted you to.”
In one example, Jones insisted Stillis come into work on a day she was not scheduled, demanding she reorganize a shelf of books. Stillis was in a rush but said Jones made her stay until the task was done. Meanwhile, when there was no work to attend to, Jones prohibited Stillis from doing her homework during shifts.
Stillis also felt extreme pressure to obey. “I knew that if I reacted in any way, it would fall back on me. I just felt silent,” she said. “I know that I’m not the only person who felt this way.”
Randolph agrees. “He did not care that I had work to do, even though it’s a work-study job, and part of the job is that you can do your work.”
Stillis also noticed a difference in the way Jones treated female and male student workers. She said some of the boys wouldn’t show up for their shifts and faced no consequence, but girls were held to a different standard. Jones also reprimanded the girls for wearing headphones but not the boys. “My [male] coworker would wear them all the time and I never heard him say anything,” Stillis said.
Randolph also recalls Jones “would always give me things to do and [fellow work-study student] Pryce was right there. … He barely worked. … I worked more hours and he would give me the task and then if I asked Pryce to split it [Jones] would get mad at me.”
The behavior took a darker turn when Randolph recounted instances that crossed the line into harassment. She said, “I usually wear collared shirts, and once I wore a shirt that went down, it was like a v-neck, and it wasn’t that long, but we’re standing right next to each other mid-conversation, and then he just stops and just looks, and I’m like, ‘What?'”
Adding to the unsettling encounters, Randolph said Jones purposely made her walk in front of him up the stairs. “There was enough room where two or three people could walk up together,” she said. “He would stop and tell me to go. And I thought it was so weird that I had to walk in front of him. It was every time we would walk up the stairs.”
Randolph said she was often isolated from her peers during work. “On the schedule, there was no double pairing of shifts. I only worked with another student worker once and it was for half a shift. We weren’t allowed to interact with each other.”
Randolph explained that once she talked to the other student workers, including Stillis, they were able to connect their experiences. Randolph felt validated. “I’m not crazy. It’s not just me who is thinking this, it’s everybody,” she said.
Immediately, Stillis went into action. “After hearing this, I was like ‘We need to come together and tell Anne [Schwelm] because if you’re going through this and I’m going through this, there’s something wrong.’”
Stillis then presented her complaints to Schwelm along with those of Randolph and another student worker who did not wish to speak on the record. She said she told Schwelm about Jones’ comments, getting called into work during her time off, and the apparent gender bias.
After the meeting, Stillis recalled Schwelm said she would reach back out to Randolph but never did. Soon after, Stillis and the unnamed student worker together complained to Schwelm again addressing the same concerns.
Stillis lodged a third complaint to Schwelm about Jones at the end of the spring 2023 semester and filed her last complaint at the beginning of the fall 2023 semester.
“I would go to Anne to talk about it,” she recalled. “I told her everything from when he started and everything … and she wrote it down. She said, ‘I’m going to talk to him, and I’m going to get this situated. It’s going to be good when we come back.’ And then I believe that since the school was closing down there was nothing that really occurred to fix it. Because when I came back to work at the library, I was like, ‘You know what, maybe something’s changed.’ Nothing changed. It seemed like it actually got worse with his behavior.”
Randolph agreed and approached Schwelm with her own complaint about Jones’ inappropriate behavior on September 20, 2023. “I immediately went to my higher boss and told her, I can’t work with him. And I switched all my hours, so I wouldn’t have to work with him again.”
She said Schwelm asked, “Do you want me to talk to him?”
Randolph said no. “I was like, absolutely do not talk to him. First of all, he scares me.”
Title IX concerns
Title IX is a federal law passed in 1972 that aims to prevent sex-based discrimination in schools and education programs funded by the federal government. According to Cabrini’s Title IX brochure, “A complaint will be given periodic status updates throughout the process, which generally takes 60 calendar days following receipt of incident report.” Jones was removed from the library nearly a year after Stillis’ first complaint.
None of the women were informed of any updates or guided through the Title IX process.
Stillis grappled with the ongoing challenges she experienced working with Jones and ultimately decided she couldn’t take it anymore. “It just started to reach a point where I really felt like I needed to leave,” she explained. Her final day of work at the library was September 22, 2023.
After Stillis’ resignation, she said Schwelm asked her, “Oh, is it because of Chris?” Stillis said it was and that Schwelm simply responded, “Okay,” and walked away. Randolph and Stillis also noted that due to Jones’ behavior, the unnamed student worker also quit around the same time.
Schwelm said she was unable to provide comment for this story.
Culture of silence
“I’m surprised that it’s taken this long for this to be noticed and addressed,” Randolph said. By the time the incident occurred, she said, “He just seemed very unstable. … He just looked more and more like he wasn’t taking care of himself.”
The transformation also went beyond mere appearances, Randolph said. “He threw our microwave out, people’s mugs, utensils. He was throwing out our personal items.”
The work-study students believe the aftermath of this incident urges reflection not just on the actions of one staff member but also on the institutional culture that enabled such behavior.
“I just don’t like how hush-hush it was,” Randolph said. “Even in the [President’s] email that came out, it said ‘Don’t believe the [campus] media, it’s just rumors.’ I’m there like, ‘That’s ridiculous. They’re not rumors.’”